Congo: outrage at UN failure to stop mass rape

Human rights groups are demanding an investigation into the UN's failure to prevent a raid in which nearly 200 women were systematically gang raped by armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) late last month, CISA reports.

"These scandalous, outrageous atrocities should serve as a wakeup call for the international community"  Marcel Stoessel, Oxfam International's country director in the DRC, told IPS in a phone interview.

Amnesty International echoed Oxfam's sentiments, calling for a critical investigation of the UN's inaction.

"The DRC government and the United Nations must urgently review the failures to protect civilians to prevent such horrors from being inflicted again," Amnesty International said in a statement.

According to IPS, Amnesty also urged the immediate gathering and preservation of evidence in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Legally, the responsibility to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the mass rapes lies with the weak and often ineffective Congolese government, which has been under mounting pressure to capture and try the individuals responsible.

A spokesperson for the UN said that a team has been deployed to investigate the incident, and is expected to finish its work by the beginning of September. The Congolese government, however, is not involved.

Another official of a human rights group admitted that the rebels were not likely to be apprehended, much less prosecuted. He cited a leaked UN report, revealed by Le Monde on Wednesday, which accuses the government of Rwanda of war crimes, including possibly genocide, in the DRC as reflecting the history of violence in the region since 1993.

Rape is systematically used as a tool of war, with about one case of rape reported every hour – the perpetrators of which are usually armed men from rebel groups or the regular Congolese army, according to Amnesty.

Given the DRC's instability, in 1999 the UN sent a peacekeeping force to the country, now called MONUSCO, which is charged with the protection of civilians. This week, it was revealed that MONUSCO failed to act despite knowledge of the rebels' presence in the villages, and failed to respond timely after eventually receiving information of the mass rapes.

Source: Catholic Information Service Africa

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